In the midst of the tropical forest surroundings, the chimpanzees and orangutans each live and play in one of the twelve large three-story high domed enclosures. The largest of these outdoor living areas are from 50- to 80-feet long and 34-feet tall. The habitats provide plenty of running room, climbing space and height for swinging through their environment. All outdoor ape habitats have a variety of climbing structures and swinging vines as well as numerous toys, tubs, culverts, and enrichment devices.
Additionally, there are three other enclosures for quarantining new arrivals and a special ape habitat for our handicapped and geriatric apes.
Each large ape habitat has attached night houses that not only provide a place to sleep at night, but also a place to rest during the day if the apes wish to retreat from summer rainstorms or the hot Florida sun. The night houses have high nesting areas, hammocks, and bed-shelves. They are heated in the winter and are strong enough to safely withstand Florida hurricanes.
All indoor and outdoor habitats have security cameras and audio monitors so the staff can see day and night from several locations that the apes in each night house are safe and well.
Our residents are free to explore, using a unique feature of our facility - an elevated tunnel system which meanders more than one and a half miles through the property. This chute system connects all the enclosures allowing both the orangutans and the chimpanzees the liberty to run through the woods and across the creek. They enjoy going over to watch other groups of apes at the sanctuary as well as following the staff and visitors around the Center.
A specially designed indoor and outdoor area suited to the unique needs of handicapped and older apes was completed in 2008. The first resident was our young chimpanzee with cerebral palsy, Knuckles. The outdoor areas are designed to be long, but narrow so that while residents have 60-feet of "walk-ahead" space, they are only 15-feet away from any of several doors leading into the night rooms. So, when a big storm is coming, or very cold weather is near, the staff has only a short distance to bring them inside for safety.
The inside rooms of the ape habitat have special adaptations also. One entire cage wall moves to gently push a resident back to a corner so that when there is the need to administer treatment or medication, the ape can be contained and safely handled through the cage mesh by the caregiver staff. There is also special rubber flooring installed to insulate and cushion against injury. Video and audio equipment installed here allows 24-hour monitoring by the staff.
Banner Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur courtesy of NEAVS